Yesterday, Disney acquired most of the assets of 21st Century Fox in a deal that gave Fox shareholders $52.4 billion worth of Disney stock. Prior to the announcement, President Donald Trump called Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch to congratulate him on the sale (and make sure that Murdoch hadn’t sold Trump’s favorite television channel, Fox News). Murdoch is an ally of the President. Earlier this year, Trump and Murdoch were reported to speak at least once a week on the phone, with Murdoch serving as an informal strategic advisor to the President.
It’s no surprise that no one is expecting the Fox/Disney deal to be blocked by the government, while Trump’s Justice Department is currently in the process of trying to prevent an even bigger deal between Time Warner and AT&T. Even if Trump doesn’t have a bestie at the top of one of those companies like he does with Murdoch at Fox, Time Warner also owns CNN, and Trump is notable not a fan.
But in the Fox/Disney deal, Trump isn’t losing a friend at the head of a powerful media empire. Instead, he’s gaining a friend who is now the largest individual shareholder at an even bigger media empire. According to a report from the LA Times, Murdoch Family Trust will walk away with a 4.37% stake in Disney. The only shareholder with a larger share is Vanguard Group, an investment company, which holds 6.22%.
Not mentioned on the LA Times’ top 10 list of shareholders is Ike Perlmutter, the Chairman of Marvel Entertainment who earned a lot of Disney stock himself when Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion, though that sum seems quaint in the wake of the Fox deal. Though Perlmutter doesn’t rank in the top 10, and his exact shares are unknown, he is believed to be another of the largest individual shareholders; most of the other top shareholders are investment firms.
Perlmutter is another close friend and ally of Donald Trump. Ike and his wife Laura donated heavily to Trump during and after his campaign. In 2016, the Perlmutters contributed 1/3 of the total funds collected by the Trump Foundation, Trump’s “charity.” Trump once referred to Perlmutter as “one of the great men of business,” and he’s relied on Ike’s advice during his presidency too. In addition to dining with the president regularly at Mar-a-Lago and flying on Air Force One, Perlmutter been an official advisor on the subject of veterans’ healthcare. Trump famously gave Ike the pen he used to sign a bill.
That’s two of Trump’s closest friends of allies with major stakes in Disney, and that’s not all Trump stands to gain. Earlier this year, Disney CEO Bob Iger severed an already strained relationship with the President when he quit the President’s advisory council in protest of Trump backing out of the Paris climate accords. Iger had previously held out longer than some other business leaders. Iger has also been long rumored to be considering a run for president of his own, probably as a democrat. Before the Disney/Fox deal, it wasn’t out of the question that Iger could face Trump in 2020. But Iger has renewed his contract with Disney, agreeing to lead the company in the wake of the deal until at least 2121.
The sale has effectively eliminated a potential rival to the President, while simultaneously installing yet another ally inside of the powerful Disney corporation, and to top it all off, his favorite show, Fox and Friends, will be unimpeded by the sale. When it comes to Disney buying Fox, for Trump, it’s win/win/win.
For everyone else? Well, it depends how good that Fantastic Four movie is, doesn’t it? It had better be really @#$%ing good.